Tag Archives: Winnie-the-Pooh

From Wallace to Willy

Pat McMahon and the cast of "The Wallace & Ladmo Show" (Photo: Centennial Theatre Foundation)

Like many parents born and raised here in Arizona, my husband James grew up watching “The Wallace & Ladmo Show” — the longest running same-cast children’s television show in history. Think 1954 to 1989. Thanks to a collaboration between Centennial Theatre Foundation, Actors Theatre and Desert Foothills Theatre, generations old and new can revisit the show via a production written and directed by Ben Tyler.

It’s being presented this weekend by Desert Foothills Theatre (and during June at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix). Performances take place March 23-25 at Cactus Shadows Fine Arts Center in Scottdale. Folks eager to explore this and other historic fare can also visit the House of Broadcasting in Scottsdale.

Musical Theatre of Anthem performs "Willy Wonka" March 29-April 1 (Photo: Olga Smirnoff)

Another North Valley theater, Musical Theatre of Anthem, has exciting news to share. Their production of “Willy Wonka,” being performed at the Boulder Creek High School mini-auditorium in Anthem, opens Thurs, March 29 and runs through Sun, April 1. They’re also anticipating the opening of their new theater at 42323 N. Vision Wy. come July, just in time for summer theater classes.

Musical Theatre of Anthem recently revealed its 2012/13 lineup, which includes “Our Town” (Sept), “Thoroughly Modern Millie” (Sept/Oct), “The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley Jr.” (Oct), “A Year With Frog and Toad KIDS” (Oct), “Thumbelina (A Swallow’s Tale)” (Nov), “Something Beautiful” (Nov/Dec), “Winnie the Pooh KIDS” (Feb), “Little Shop of Horrors” (March), “Dear Edwina JR.” (March) and another show that’ll be announced once rights are secured. Their 2012/13 season also includes a holiday show (TBD in Dec) and fundraiser (Feb).

This future home of Musical Theatre of Anthem should be ready in July

The Arts Council of the North Valley presents their “7th Annual Regional Teen Art Competition” at The Caepe School and Fellowship Church in Anthem Sat, April 28 and Sun, April 29. The works of more than 60 students from area high schools will be exhibited. Think paintings, sculpture, photography and drawings. A panel of professional artists and educators will select winners, and folks who attend can cast their vote for “Viewers’ Choice.”

The council also presents “Picnic Under the Stars” next month. The Sat, April 28 benefit includes “a live auction, raffle items, culinary delights, and a cash bar.” Click here to learn more about the council’s many programs, including educational outreach — or to sign up for Arts Council of the North Valley alerts featuring timely news on music, dance, theater and visual arts offerings.

— Lynn

Note: Both Musical Theatre of Anthem and Desert Foothills Theatre offer summer theater camps, so check their websites for details (and find additional camp options here).

Coming up: I’m more than these stripes

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My own little movie list

Lizabeth called the other night as she was preparing to fly home from college for the holidays, sharing that she had just one final decision to make before getting on the plane — which movies to purchase for the five-hour flight.

Turns out she chose three of them, including one on my short list of “must see” movies for families who like to do films with friends and family members visiting during the holidays. It’s “Dolphin Tale,” a 2011 film still playing at just a few Valley theaters.

“Dolphin Tale” is based on a true story. It recounts the adventures of a wounded dolphin named Winter and a wounded veteran, follows the developing friendship of two tweens and offers a touching glimpse into the heart of a mother learning to let go as her son pursues his rather unconventional dreams.

I have my own little list of movies to watch during the holidays, including one my grown son loved enough to see twice when it was in theaters. It’s “Up!,” a 2009 computer-animated film featuring Ed Asner voicing a grumpy old widower whose house floats away as a young boy he’s just met stands helpless on the front porch.

When I’m feeling nostalgic, I’ll revisit the 2011 “Winnie the Pooh” film. It’s a lovely homage to literature, and reminds me of all the Pooh paraphernalia that filled Christopher’s room when he was young. Also “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” a 1982 film I first saw with my mom without knowing I’d lose to cancer the following decade.

Lizabeth is already planning to watch the final “Harry Potter” movie with me while she’s home. I somehow managed to miss the movie theater run, so it’ll be my first experience with 2011 movie “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.” We’ve been watching these movies together since she was ten years old.

I’m also determined to finally see “The Help,” a 2011 film that’s still showing in a small number of Valley theaters. It stars one of my favorite actresses, Viola Davis — and actress Emma Stone, who once performed at Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix.

I’ve got a whole other list for new movies. It’s topped by two Spielberg titles — “The Advenures of Tin Tin” (opening today, Dec. 21) and “War Horse” (opening Sun, Dec. 25) — but also includes “Carnage” and “The Artist” (both films open Fri, Dec. 23). Two of the four are based on Broadway plays, which doubles the fun factor.

If you’ve got a new or classic movie to recommend for families who like to share films this time of year, please comment below to let our readers know.

— Lynn

Note: If you share my fondness for Winnie the Pooh, you’ll be happy to know that Valley Youth Theatre is performing “A Winnie The Pooh Christmas Tail” at VYT in Phoenix through Fri, Dec. 23. Click here for details.

Coming up: Musings on 2012 movie fare

Theater meets Christmas

Irving Berlin's White Christmas comes to ASU Gammage in Tempe Dec. 6-11

More than a dozen Valley venues are presenting family-friendly theater fare with a Christmas theme. Here’s an early round-up, listed by city, to help families who celebrate Christmas with holiday planning…

Anthem

Musical Theatre of Anthem presents a “Holiday Show” Dec. 16. www.musicaltheatreofanthem.org.

Fountain Hills

Fountain Hills Theater presents “Christmas Jukebox” Nov. 25-Dec. 18. www.fhtaz.org.

Gilbert

Hale Theatre Arizona presents “It’s a Wonderful Life” through Nov. 26 and  “A Christmas Carol” Dec. 1-23. www.haletheatrearizona.com.

Glendale

Spotlight Youth Theatre presents “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” Dec. 2-18. www.spotlightyouththeatre.org.

Mesa

Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre presents “A Christmas Carol” Nov. 17-Dec. 25. www.broadwaypalmwest.com.

East Valley Children’s Theatre presents “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” Dec. 1-11. www.evct.org.

Southwest Shakespeare Company presents “A Christmas Carol” Nov. 26-Dec. 17. www.swshakespeare.org.

Southwest Shakespeare Company performs A Christmas Carol Nov. 26-Dec. 17 in Mesa

Peoria

Arizona Broadway Theatre presents “Miracle on 34th St.” Nov. 25-Dec. 29 and “A Broadway Christmas Carol” Dec. 9-17. www.arizonabroadwaytheatre.com.

The Homestead Playhouse presents “A Christmas Carol” Dec. 1-4. www.dcranchnet.com.

Theater Works presents “A Christmas Carol” Dec. 2-18. Theater Works/Youth Works Puppet Works presents “Saving Santa” Dec. 3-24 (Sat only). www.theaterworks.com.

Phoenix

Grand Canyon University presents “Amahl and the Night Visitors” Dec. 2-11. www.gcu.edu.

New Carpa Theater Co. presents “American Pastorela” Dec. 9-18 at the Third Street Theater (Phoenix Center for the Arts). www.newcarpa.org. (Mature content)

Phoenix Theatre presents “A Christmas Story” Nov. 23-Dec. 18. www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Space 55 presents “A Bloody Mary Christmas II” Dec. 1-17 and “7 Minutes Under the Mistletoe” Dec. 17. www.space55.org. (Mature content)

The Black Theatre Troupe presents “Black Nativity” Dec. 2-11. www.blacktheatretroupe.org.

Valley Youth Theatre presents “A Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas Tail” Dec 2-23. www.vyt.com.

Scottsdale

Theatre Artists Studio presents “Holiday Music & Musings: From the Page to the Stage” Dec. 2. www.thestudiophx.org.

Sun City

Sun City Grand Drama and Comedy Club presents “Over the River and Through the Woods” Dec. 1-4. www.granddrama.com.

East Valley Children's Theatre presents The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Dec. 1-11

Tempe

ASU Gammage presents “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” (touring production) Dec. 6-11. www.asugammage.com.

If your Valley organization is presenting a theater production with a Christmas, or other winter holiday, theme — please comment below to let readers know.

— Lynn

Note: A calendar of family-friendly events is always available online at www.raisingarizonakids.com. This post will be updated as I learn of additional theater offerings with a Christmas theme. Although most of the events noted above are designed for family audiences, please note that some are “mature audience” only productions.

Coming up: Christmas concerts, A cup of cheer

Update: Some of these shows are extending their runs, so check theater company websites for the latest and greatest information. 11/26/11

Arts in Education Week

During a recent episode of “Jeopardy,” the final question required knowledge of both children’s literature and opera. Think Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh” meets Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado.” Only one contestant seemed to know much about either — and he walked away with the cash. I’m guessing there’s an art teacher he ought to be thanking back home.

It’s been heartening to see arts and culture play such a pivotal role in 9/11 anniversary ceremonies. Sunday’s event at the newly opened 9/11 Memorial in NYC featured Yo-Yo Ma, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Emi Ferguson, Paul Simon and James Taylor. Opening remarks by Michael Bloomberg quoted Shakespeare, and poetry was prevalent throughout.

The Pushcart Players perform one of five school shows offered by Mesa Arts Center this season

Too often our nation forgets all that has been forged by arts and culture, and fails to appreciate the role they can play in moving us forward. So I’m delighted that Congress passed a bill last year designating the second week of September “National Arts in Education Week.”

For those who love the arts, no explanation of their impact or importance is needed. Art is an instinct, in impulse. An adventure of imagination as necessary as air. For others, they seem a mere nicety at best — perhaps because the joys of art never touched their lives as children.

But those unmoved by art’s aesthetic power should recognize its more tangible benefits. Art creates jobs. Creates cities where people want to live. Creates schools full of innovators and imaginators. Maybe even the “creative class” touted by a presidential candidate in his stump speeches.

Ninety percent of Arizonans believe that arts education is either important or very important, according to results of a public opinion poll conducted by ASU in May 2009 — a poll cited in the background report for this year’s Arizona Town Hall, the first of 98 Arizona Town Halls to focus on Arizona arts and culture. www.aztownhall.org.

The Arizona Arts Education section of the report was authored by Mandy Buscas (then director of arts learning for the Arizona Commission on the Arts, now the arts education outreach coordinator for Mesa Arts Center) and Lynn Tuttle (director of arts education for the Arizona Department of Education).

MAC presents Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters for grades K-6

Their work considers results of the 2009 Arts Education Census. It also looks at federal, state and local educational policies — noting that state support for arts in education has suffered significant losses of late due to “efforts to close significant stage budget shortfalls.”

Their reporting on the arts census notes that “20% of schools offered no courses in any arts discipline” and that “79% of schools spend less than $1 per year per student for arts instruction.” This despite the fact that U.S. employers rank creativity/innovation among the top five skills growing in importance.

So what can be done to move Arizona forward? A report issued after the Arizona Town Hall on arts and culture says that “Arizona residents need to speak up, stand for what we support, and make that support known at the ballot box at all levels, from the legislature, to the superintendent of public instruction, and to local school boards.”

It sounds rather daunting if you’re not accustomed to advocating for issues with local and stage officials, but there are plenty of resources to help you get started — including Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts. www.azcitizensforthearts.org.

The report also urges the arts and culture community to partner with the business community to “lobby for improved arts education” — and calls on nonprofit organizations and arts professionals in our communities to “continue augmenting arts education in the schools.” Think artist residencies, school field trips and such.

There’s plenty we can do as parents. Volunteer to help with art projects in the classroom. Coordinate field trips to places like libraries, performing arts venues, museums and exhibit spaces. Donate art-related supplies to local schools. Urge schools to integrate arts learning into other subjects. Vote art at every opportunity.

MAC presents Native American Song & Dance for grades K-12

Folks who separate art from the other disciplines, orchestrating false dichotomies that pit science and math against music and theater should learn more about artists like Emi Ferguson, a distinguished student of both music and epidemiology. Or scientists like Oliver Sacks.

To learn more about arts and education in Arizona, sign up for the free arts learning newsletter from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. www.azarts.gov.

The latest issue features details on the Poetry Out Loud program, a student art competition, an opportunity to participate in the Kennedy Center Partners in Education program, Target field trip grants, teacher workshops and more.

As for the “Jeopardy” answer that won the big bucks, it was “Pooh-bah.”

— Lynn

Note: Additional arts in education resources include the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities (www.pcah.gov), Americans for the Arts (www.artsusa.org) and the Arts Education Partnership (www.aep-arts.org). Learn more about Mesa Arts Center arts education programs at www.mesaartscenter.com.

Coming up: Country music meets arts and culture, Art meets airport, Who let the cats out?, Shakespeare meets Sweeney Todd

“Winnie the Pooh” meets “Avenue Q”

A scene from Walt Disney Picture's Winnie the Pooh--which is full of playful letters and words

Lizabeth suggested at about 12:45pm Saturday afternoon that we hit a 1pm showing of Disney’s new “Winnie the Pooh” film, which gave us little time to transition from Eeyore to Tigger mode. But we made it, and enjoyed every second of nostalgia nirvana in the short 73 minute film.

“Winnie the Pooh” is a literature lover’s dream — filled with images of books, letters and punctuation marks that come alive (as muses, not monsters), and scenes of Pooh characters bouncing, stumbling and flying through the pages of a “Winnie the Pooh” storybook.

Tigger doesn’t text or tweet. Kanga and Roo get letters the old-fashioned way — in their mailbox. Friends work together to solve problems. They’re creative. They cheer each other on. And they accept one another, foibles and all. Pull out the Pooh books before heading to the theater — you’ll want to extend the movie magic with a few good reads when you get home.

Robert Lopez wrote music and lyrics for both Avenue Q and Winnie the Pooh

“Winnie the Pooh” is a lovely musical jaunt, full of classical music in various tempos and styles. The movie features an original score by Henry Jackman and original songs by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, a married couple with impressive joint and individual credits.

Lizabeth spotted Robert Lopez’s name in the credits — because she’s familiar with his work on “The Book of Mormon” and “Avenue Q.” The couple share music and lyric credits for seven songs in the film. Anderson-Lopez voices Kanga and Playbill.com reports that Lopez makes the rumbling sound for Pooh’s tummy. It’s a gift, I suppose.

A careful review of the movie’s credits — which roll as some of the movie’s funniest antics unfold — reveals plenty of familiar names. There’s Zooey Deschanel, who contributes an original song and vocal performance for the film. And Craig Ferguson (the voice of Owl) of late-night fame.

Also actors who’ve voiced characters for Toy Story 3, Phineas & Ferb and SpongeBob SquarePants. Most endearing is the voice of Christopher Robin. It’s that of Jack Boulter, and it’s his first-ever voiceover role. I may have to enjoy the movie a second time just to relish all the voiceover talent — including narration by John Cleese, co-founder of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

A single line in the credits reads “Dan Read-In Memorium” — in honor of a longtime background and visual development artist for Disney Animation films who died in May of 2010 after battling melanoma. I read that donations to local SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) chapters were requested in lieu of flowers.

Film credits mention “caffeination by Carlos Benavides” and thank three museums, including Britain’s Victoria and Albert Museum, where film directors Stephen Anderson and Don Hall studied original “Winnie the Pooh” illustrations by Ernest H. Shepard. The original stuffed animals that inspired Milne’s stories for his son Christopher Robin Milne are housed at the New York Public Library.

Disney's Winnie the Pooh opens with pages from this 1961 book by A.A. Milne

Children and their grown-ups giggled throughout the film as Tigger pounced atop a downtrodden Eeyore, Owl recited his lengthy memoir, Roo braved the forrest in his tea cup helmet, Rabbit found comfort in a checklist and Pooh raced to escape angry bees. There were no angry birds back in author A.A. Milne’s day (1882-1956).

When characters ponder knotting a rope to rescue friends who’ve fallen into a pit, Eeyore suggest that “it’s all for naught.” Later he’s convinced that “we’re all gonna die.” Roo offers a deadpan “Send the pig” (Lizabeth’s favorite line) when scary noises loom, and Tigger spends a lot of time saying “it’s gonna be great.” Pooh dreams of honey, meeting frustrations with a simple “Oh, bother!”

Disney’s “Winnie the Pooh” website offers a “100 Acre Wood Personality quiz” for those of you who’ve yet to identify with a particular character, and there are plenty of games, activities and facts for younger “Pooh” fans. As other folks flock to Harry Potter’s Forbidden Forrest, I’m perfectly content to linger in the 100 Acre Wood.

— Lynn

Note: Lizabeth found a cool “10 Questions” interview of Robert Lopez by Belinda Luscombe of TIME Magazine in which he talks about his “personal connection with Pooh.” Click here to watch the video from TIME.com.

Coming up: Pardon my Pygmalion

Annie tales

More “Annie”–Hooray! Please see update at the bottom of this post… 

Lately I’ve had the musical “Annie” on the brain. My daughter Lizabeth began interning with Childsplay in Tempe on Monday — working with Childsplay professionals during a week-long summer camp with an “Annie” theme.

Friday afternoon Childsplay campers will perform a condensed version of “Annie” for family and friends. “Annie” is the first in a series of shows featured in the 2011 Childsplay Summer Academy “musical theatre marathon.” 

Come Friday evening, Valley Youth Theatre will open their June 10-26 run of “Annie” at the Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix. Ten-year-old Jada Jo Warner (pictured above) will perform the role of “Annie.” You can click here to enjoy an interview with Warner from the Herberger’s video blog.

Valley Youth Theatre performs Annie June 10-26 at the Herberger Theater Center

Warner shared, when I spoke with her on Friday, that she’d love to have a career on Broadway. VYT alumni who’ve gone on to enjoy performing arts careers include Emma Stone, Chelsea Kane, Jordin Sparks and others.

But Warner, who has a big sister studying music therapy at NYU, says she might also like to teach special needs children. “My brother is blind,” Warner told me — and he’s an inspiration.

Jessie Pauley, Skye Bowen, Jada Jo Warner and Jahnay Pearson in Annie with VYT

Warner is the middle child of Kurt and Brenda Warner, and told me her six siblings range in age from 5 to 22. The youngest sibs are twins, and must make for a fun audience when Warner works her way singing and dancing through the house.

“Annie” is Warner’s fourth show with Valley Youth Theatre. Warner says she’s also been an Oompa Loompa in “Willy Wonka,” a butterfly in “Pinkalicious” and a racoon in “Winnie the Pooh.”

Megan Mahoney, Joshua McWhortor and Karol Cooper in Annie with VYT

I asked Warner, who studies voice with Kelli James, what she’d sung during “Annie” auditions. “I knew I had to sing a really belty song,” recalls Warner, “because Annie belts.” She chose “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from the musical “Funny Girl.” 

Warner says the audition panel was “surprised” when she hit the highest notes. She cheerfully recounts being invited to subsequent call backs with fewer and fewer people there to read and sing. Warner says the other two “Annie” finalists, both good friends of hers, were cast as orphans.

Bobb Cooper, Jada Jo Warner and other cast members from Annie with VYT

I’m told there’s an open audition next week in New York City for a future production of “Annie” — a show that never seems to go out of style. I sent Warner a link to related information, imagining how fun it would be to see local talent in a new production of the show.

1977 poster for Annie on Broadway

“Annie” earned the 1977 Tony Award for best musical — and plenty of other Tony Awards too — for best actress, book, choreographer, costume designer, scenic designer and score.

The cast of Valley Youth Theatre’s “Annie” will wrap this Sunday’s 2pm performance just in time to race home and catch the 2011 Tony Awards on CBS. Perhaps years from now, they’ll be the ones accepting the awards.

— Lynn

Note: Turns out there’s an online audition process for a future production of “Funny Girl” out there too. “Fanny Brice” wannabees can click here to learn more. NEW: Click here for profiles of girls who auditioned for “Annie” (from The New York Times).

Coming up: “Strange Bedfellows” in Scottsdale, Road trip: Utah Shakespeare Festival, Women’s work

Photo credit: Kristin Rathbun Photography

Update: Thanks to Queen Creek Community Theatre for alerting me to their June 24, 25 & 27 performances of “Annie” at the Queen Creek Performing Arts Center.

Tickets are available online at www.qcpac.com or by calling 480-987-SHOW (7469).

The Queen Creek Performing Arts Center is located at 22149 E. Ocotillo Rd. in Queen Creek.

Fun with fruit

This post features the cartoon art of Lilly Fluger from http://www.lillyarts.com

I don’t get out to Peoria for Theater Works productions nearly as often as I’d like to because it feels too far a drive for those of us who get overwhelmed by guilt enjoying more than ten minutes of down time.

Those who live in the Northwest Valley are fortunate to have this theater company so close to home. Parents in other parts of the Valley who are free of my many hang-ups (which is most of you) will find it well worth the drive.

Theater Works performs at the modestly-sized but perfectly polished Peoria Center for the Performing Arts, as does their youth theater company Youth Works.

Upcoming shows include “Chicago” (Theater Works), “Footloose” (Youth Works) and “Winnie the Pooh” (Youth Works). Theater Works also offers workshops, camps and various special events throughout the season.

I attended the opening performance of “James and the Giant Peach” last weekend. It’s being performed through Feb 20 in the venue’s small “black box” theater.

I love intimate venues for works performed for children, because audience members are close to the action — making it easier for little ones to stay attentive and really feel a part of the show.

Children love watching other young people perform, and the audience for Saturday’s matinee clearly enjoyed the show.

The story takes place in and around a giant peach-shaped set piece — which turns fairly often as lights go down and scene changes occur. It’s simple but well-suited to the tale.

I enjoyed the lighting — especially the use of black lights as glow-in-the-dark fish accompanied James and his friends on an oceanic adventure.

I also loved the costumes. Dresses with rich-looking fabrics for the comical pair of aunts who pick on James nearly non-stop. Headgear for the earthworm who helps to save the day when sharks cross paths with the floating peach.

Even fun tights and funky hats. Thumbs up as well for hair and make-up design. It’s clear that all involved are thrilled to be playing with the “steam punk” vibe.

Part of the show’s charm comes late in the second act (there’s one intermission) when James and his crew invite audience members to come up and feel the giant peach. This is fun wth fruit at its finest. Sit in the front row if you’re game.

There’s a benefit to sitting in the back rows as well, which seem to allow for easier viewing of a small screen over the performance area (there is no raised stage for this production). The screen features puppetry mirroring much of the action of the play.

It’s clearly a talented cast — which includes two pairs of siblings (one homeschooled). Some are longtime Youth Works actors, while others are making their first appearance on stage.

It’s always refreshing to find a cast that combines actors with various backgrounds and experience levels. Based on what I saw of the cast after the show, it’s a caring and cohesive bunch — something that’s ever so important for children just venturing into the performing arts.

Outside of Theater Works, these kids are involved in all sorts of things — including the Junior Thespian Society, choral performance, Irish step dancing, student council and much more.

“James and the Giant Peach,” adapted by David Wood, is based on the Roald Dahl book of the same name. The Theater Works production is directed by Chris Hamby.

Read the book. See the play. Then encourage your children to create their own giant adventures. And just this once, let them play with their fruit.

— Lynn

Note: Visit www.lillyarts.com to enjoy more work by artist Lilly Fluger

Coming up: Channeling J-Lo?, In the doghouse, Tales of a ten year old, Lucky #13?